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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Q&A/ Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh

Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 27, 2007

R Krishna Das / New Delhi August 26, 2007

Do you think the Naxal cloud has cast its shadow on the development and economic growth of Chhattisgarh?
Over the last three-and-a-half years, Chhattisgarh has seen a new phase of developmental activities in the state. The state is high on the growth trajectory and has attracted investment of Rs 1,10,000 crore. The investment is not just on paper. Companies have started giving shape to the proposals and have signed MoUs with the government. Not just in the power sector, private players have shown interest in the steel and aluminium sectors also. Cement plants in the state are in expansion mode.
The state will soon become power surplus and, by Diwali, we will stop power cuts in the entire state. Private companies have inked pacts for producing 30,000 Mw of power. We expect at least 80 per cent of this to be translated into action — of which the state will have the right to purchase 7.5 per cent on favourable terms. The attractive industrial policy of Chhattisgarh is swaying the investors.
But the government has failed to acquire land for the Tata Steel plant and the IFFCO power plant.
The state government will directly communicate with the villagers and convince them about the projects and the prosperity these will bring. The Communist parties are playing a double role over industrialisation and provoking the villagers into holding protests. In West Bengal, they are inviting the Tatas and other industries, while in Chhattisgarh their leaders are spearheading villagers’ campaign to oppose the steel plant in Bastar. Even the state government is wary of Naxal leaders’ involvement in villagers’ protest, like in Nandigram. Direct interaction by the government will help in ending the deadlock.
In Bastar, the hotbed of Naxal movement, development works worth more than Rs 400 crore are stuck.
The situation in Bastar is different. When the country’s premier road construction agency — the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) — failed to complete its project, how do you expect the state government, with hardly any resources, to construct roads in the insurgency-prone area? The BRO is specially equipped to construct roads in difficult terrains. It was assigned road works on a national highway and not an interior road. Unfortunately, it could not complete even 25 per cent of the work.
The state can construct roads which will pave the way for development. Funds are not a problem. But it needs a proper action plan and the Centre’s assistance. The Union government should prepare a five-year action plan for road construction in all the Naxal-infested pockets of different states and deploy special force to provide security cover to the persons involved in the project. This would facilitate completion of projects. It is true that the development works will gather pace once peace is established in the region.
How do you see the Naxal problem in the present context?
Had Mao or Charu Majumdar been alive today, they too would have been stunned by the changing nature of the Naxal movement, which is now confined to extortion and unleashing atrocities on the poor tribals for whom the rebels claimed to be waging a war against the government. The poor in the interior areas are deprived of the benefits of the public distribution system, basic health and other facilities. This has propelled them to revolt against the rebels and launch a peaceful movement that has become popular as Salwa Judum.
There are reports that the Salwa Judum campaign has got diluted over the last couple of months?
It is not so. Generally, rallies and meetings cannot be organised during monsoon. It is a spontaneous movement of the people and it will continue.
How long can the government go on feeding thousands of tribals staying in different relief camps?
Till they stay in the relief camps. (About 53,000 villagers are staying in 22 relief camps set up by the government to house the people who have abandoned their habitats following Naxal fear). The government is arranging training programmes for their self-employment.
There is a perception that the tribals have been pushed to the camps so that it is easier for industry to acquire their lands on behalf of multinational companies?
This is a misconception. The villages or the pockets from where the tribals have fled do not have any mineral deposits. It is not so easy to acquire the land of tribals under the established laws. Moreover, no multinational or any industrial house will want to put up a plant tucked away unobtrusively in a corner. No one wants to even invest in Bastar and it is the government that has convinced a few.
How are you going to find a solution to the Naxal problem?
We have been concentrating on curing the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem. The issue is not confined to any particular state and hence, the Centre needs to take the initiative to design a joint action plan.
The Naxal problem cannot be solved in instalments and a comprehensive long-term strategy is required to deal with the situation. The Dantewada region, the worst Naxal infested pocket, is endowed with world-class iron ore. But unfortunately, the tribal youth still remain paupers as the NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation) is exporting iron ore to China and Japan. If there is some value addition before exporting the iron ore, local youth can get employment and this will distance them from the rebels.
Did the Chhattisgarh government fail at its level to create a strategy in dealing with the Naxal problem?
The road to the solution of Naxal problem is difficult. But it is not that there is no solution to the problem. We succeed sometimes, we fail sometimes. The state government has hired advisors. Their suggestions may or may not be result-oriented, but the government has to explore all possibilities.
The Naxal problem has emerged as the biggest threat to democracy as rebels want to rule through the barrel of the gun. As I had said stated, the problem is not confined to Chhattisgarh alone. Many other adjoining states are also under its grip. If Chhattisgarh launches operation, the rebels slip into neighbouring states. That is why we are stressing on joint operations. Had it been an affair of Chhattisgarh alone, we would have crushed the Naxal movement by now.

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Defensive violence is not illegal

Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 23, 2007

P A Sebastian, founder president of International Association of People’s Lawyers, says Vishnu and Vikram believe in an ideology that shuns offensive violence but accepts its defensive avatar

The founder president of International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), P A Sebastian, is angry at the state’s attitude of branding every voice of dissent as that of a Naxalite and every protest against its authority as anti-national. The IAPL has been at the forefront in fighting cases in defence of several alleged Naxalites like Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Vishnu and Murali.

On Tuesday, the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested its lawyer K D Rao for his alleged Naxal links. In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, Sebastian speaks of how the state machinery has now turned against IAPL for having stood for the democratic rights of Ferreira and others.


IAPL has been defending several arrested individuals who the police claim are Naxalites.
The question is not whether they are Naxalites or not. The question is: do they have any democratic rights? All are equal before law. There is no special law for a Naxalite, as there is no special law for RSS. Similarly, law does not differentiate between Vikram, Vishnu or Sonia Gandhi. You can’t arrest someone just because they belong to a particular group or party. You can’t arbitrarily arrest people and torture them for their ideological leanings.

Are you saying that Vishnu, Vikram, Murali and Ferreira are not Naxalites.
Anyone who raises a voice of dissent against the state, anyone who fights for the rights of the poor and deprived in this country is branded as a Naxalite. They are arrested and tortured to send a signal to the people to deter them from questioning state’s authority and reveal its failures.

Over 83 per cent of people in India earn less than Rs 20 a day. Tribals, who have been living in the jungles since time immemorial, have been branded as encroachers as jungles are state property. Forest officials and police harass them. There is an explosive situation in the country and the Indian state is sitting on powder keg. Vikram, Vishnu, Rao and others have been fighting for the rights of these people and so the state wants to terrorise them and anyone who raises a voice of dissent. And to fight this dissent, this term called “Naxalite” has been invented. They are political workers, not Naxalites.

K D Rao has been part of IAPL for sometime and has argued in defence of Arun Ferreira. Why do you think he was picked up?
If you look at the case in which he has been arrested, you will understand. The case dates back to 2001 in which a policeman was killed in the witness box while Rao was cross-questioning him. What has Rao got to do with his killing? Since then, police have not been able to arrest anyone. Suddenly after six years, they have picked up Rao. What were they doing until now? Rao was not hiding anywhere. It is all because IAPL has stood up for people like Ferreira who have fought against state oppression. The state is victimising us. They have even been keeping a watch on our movements. On Sunday night, when ATS officials raided Vikram’s house in Andheri, Susan (Vikram’s wife), who works with us, called me up. The inspector told Susan there was no use calling me up as I was not keeping well and had just come out from Bombay Hospital. Now, this is a fact that I had not told anyone. How did ATS come to know of it?

You are calling them political workers, but how do you justify violence in this political revolution?
There is difference between offensive violence and defensive violence. Vishnu and Vikram are people who believe in an ideology that shuns offensive violence but accepts defensive violence. Defensive violence is not illegal. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t protect yourself, even if it requires the use of a weapon to kill someone.

The state only cries “violence, violence”. It never gives the context in which a particular violence has taken place. It’s the state that has been using offensive violence against the oppressed.

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Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 22, 2007

Are the Maoists planning a fresh people’s revolt after their Fifth Plenum? What will be the future of the CA polls? What policy will the Maoists embrace towards India? And how far will the Maoist-SPA alliance go? Maoist Chairman Prachanda spoke on these and various other contemporary issues in an exclusive interview with Nepal magazine recently. Excerpts of the interview:

Q. Your Fifth Plenum (extended meeting) drew much attention. What was so special about it?

Prachanda: The difference between the political circumstances during the earlier four extended meetings and this year’s meeting is the specialty. The earlier extended meetings were held during wartime, for the preparations of the war. This year, the extended meeting took place in a completely new environment of the ongoing peace process and at a time when we, too, are a part of the government.

Secondly, when we entered into the peace process from the process of the People’s War, it was but obvious that several questions would be raised from within and outside the party. The Fifth Plenum has answered all such questions and brought about uniformity in understanding.

Q. What does uniformity in understanding mean?

Prachanda : Transforming a country by addressing the class, caste, regional and gender issues in the transitional phase in a peaceful manner and being a part of the government to hold a Constituent Assembly election are rare experiments in communist movements. Our party has transformed the people’s war into strategic defense, balance, and then strategic retaliation and then ultimately into the peace process, which is a novel experiment in itself. Therefore, this process would obviously have given rise to several questions from within and outside the party. Whether this process will lead us to success or surrender? Such questions had been raised very naturally. We had to answer such questions. And, understanding the fact that the path we have chosen to bring about social and revolutionary changes in a novel way by analyzing all the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th Century is what we call the uniformity in understanding.

Q. We heard that your party rank and file came down heavily on you, that internal differences were spilled over, and that three lines conspicuously surfaced in the fifth plenum. What is the truth?

Prachanda : This is utter nonsense that I was heavily attacked. Had it been so, it would have been impossible to get the 2200 representatives of the plenum united again at the end. Definitely, the honest revolutionists were gravely concerned whether the party would deviate (from its original path). Because of such concerns, several questions were raised. What about security when the central leaders congregate in Kathmandu? Would the follow the path of deviation like the CPN-UML while staying in Kathmandu and enjoying vehicle ride? It’s true that concerns such as these were raised. But it was more than clear that they had a huge confidence in the leadership.

As far as the three different lines are concerned, they exist in all parties: Rightist, extremist and the middle-path. We represent a revolutionary line. I did not write Prachanda Path in the document of the plenum. But no one said Prachanda Path was the main line and should not be left out. This also helps to understand the line and debates of the party’s extended meeting.

Q. Your earlier documents used to attack directly; this time around you have said many things vaguely. Why?

Prachanda: The language we used when we were in Rolpa and the one we have to use while in Kathmandu has to be inevitably different. The language used while in one’s own base area and the language that is used while in the White Area cannot be the same.

Q. Do you still consider Kathmandu a ‘White Area’?

Prachanda : Yes, because Kathmandu still does not belong to the people.

Q. You often mention the phrase ‘a new or a novel experiment’. What is this experiment for– for a revolution or a compromise?

Prachanda : When we talk about a new or a novel experiment, it is for a revolution. Considering the global and national situation and development in science and technology, we have to find a conclusion to push forward the revolution and for that a new and novel experiment is required.

Q. What will that revolution do?

Prachanda : In Nepal’s context it (revolution) will alter the feudal-production relationship or the feudal-property relationship. It will also change the feudal-political relationship and the feudal-cultural relationship. Secondly, it will free Nepal and the Nepali people from the interventions of the foreign imperialists, reactionaries and expansionists.

Q. That means, at a certain point, violence could again take place in the name of revolution?

Prachanda : In one way or the other, each revolution is violent. No matter how peaceful a movement you call it, it always has violence and counter-violence. Secondly, we have felt if we can move forward on the political base formed after our 10 years of people’s war, people can achieve freedom in a peaceful manner as well, and we can constitute a new society. And we are currently engaged in the same experiment. But whether it will always remain peaceful or turn violent again does not depend on us; it depends on our opponents. It depends on the imperialist and feudalist elements which are not yet completely defeated. There is a possibility that they could use violence against the people once again. In that case, the people will have to retaliate against them. At that point, the revolution could again turn violent.

Q. So, there still remains a final confrontation, no?

Prachanda : It can be understood that way. If the process we have embraced after the 12-point understanding and other agreements is obstructed and if the people are not given an amicable atmosphere to express their mandate in a peaceful way and if violence is again used against the people, then a final battle can take place.

Q. There have been allegations that it’s you who have been committing violence and excesses through the Young Communist League (YCL).

Prachanda : Some media houses that believe in reactionary violence are engaged in this propaganda. This is not the truth. If you go to the bottom of each such incident, then you will realize that these incidents have taken place in retaliation to the ruling mindset of the ruling class.

Q. You are in the government. Then aren’t you, too, among the rulers?

Prachanda : If one looks at the outer structure (of the government), one can say so. But, in essence, we joined the government just for the sake of the Constituent Assembly polls. We are not the whole-sole in-charge of the power. Power and government are not the same thing. And again, when we joined the government, we were told that it would be run on consensus, which is not happening. If it continues this way, the relevance of us staying in the government will be over.

Q. So, when are you quitting the government?

Prachanda : Our ministers are giving an ultimatum today. Then, it will depend on how the government leadership takes the issue and how it is discussed in the eight-party. It will be sorted out in a few days.

Q. People still have doubts about the CA polls; will the election take place on the said date?

Prachanda : It should. But looking at the preparations made by the government leadership and its modus operandi, we have serious doubts about the polls taking place on November 22. Holding the elections without creating certain essential conditions will not fulfill the people’s aspirations. For example, all the agreements reached so far must be implemented in a proper way. Above all, all the groups, including those in Madhes, which are creating troubles, must be controlled.
Since the Gaur carnage, our more than 50 cadres have been killed. But no action has been taken against the guilty. They are walking free. In such a situation, how can one believe that the government can hold the elections in a proper manner? How can we believe? We have already said that India does have a role in one way or the other in creating unrest in Terai, especially the Hindu extremist groups of India are creating troubles in Terai. The government’s failure to control this has given rise to misgivings about the possibility of elections. Besides, feudal royal and other reactionary forces are also trying to thwart the elections. Therefore, we have been saying that an environment for the elections can be created only by declaring the country a republic before the polls.

Q. It is said that you yourself don’t want the elections because your (party’s) popularity has gone down lately.

Prachanda : There is no reason to doubt us as far as the elections are concerned because thousands of our fighters sacrificed their lives for the CA polls. We cannot be against the polls. Yes, we do feel that we might lose; it’s because the feudalists in the country and imperialists-reactionary forces are hatching conspiracies and trying to marginalize us. Despite that, we are not going to deviate from the election front. We have already formed a high-level committee to write an election manifesto. We will soon announce our first list of the candidates in the preliminary level.

Q. There have been allegations that you are complicating the already sorted out issues like a republican set up and proportional electoral system to obstruct the elections.

Prachanda : When it was decided that the CA polls would not take place on June 20, we wrote a note of dissent that the CA polls would not happen unless the country is declared a republic. After we pitched the republican voice high, parliament amended the interim constitution incorporating a provision that it could remove the king with a two-thirds majority. In this circumstance, how can it be said that we are against the polls. This (republican set up) is our old demand.
As far as the proportional electoral system is concerned, this is what we have always believed in. We had compromised thinking that the elections would be held within June and also because the Nepali Congress did not accept the demand for a fully proportional system. But, we were unable to clarify ‘the compromise’ before the people. We admitted in our fifth plenum that this was a mistake and we clearly put forth that the proportional electoral system is our belief. But we have not said that we will shy away from the elections if the country does not adopt the proportional electoral system. In this situation, how are we obstructing the elections?

Q. On the question of a republic?

Prachanda : Our party has decided that a republican set up is a must. We have already announced that we will run campaigns for the republican set up. However, we will not shy away from the elections if that does not happen.

Q. Is your relation with Prime Minister Koirala thawing?

Prachanda : I won’t call it thawing… But the truth is there is a contradiction in the way the political developments are taking place and the way the Nepali Congress is working. Girija Prasad Koirala and other leaders who, during the people’s war, told us what we did – attacking the headquarters or targeting the choppers – was alright, now act in a way as if they want us go back when we are in the peace process and in the government. We doubt that Koirala is going to have a huge regressive and bourgeois change.

Q. What will be the status of the Koirala government if, in case, the elections don’t take place?

Prachanda : There won’t be the Koirala government if elections don’t take place. Not only will Koirala’s government go, the country will face a huge disaster.

Q. What kind of disaster?

Prachanda : The country will be caught in a complex civil war if the CA polls are not held in proper manner.

Q. Civil war?

Prachanda : Yes, a civil war. The series of events have shown that. At that time the scale of international forces’ intervention will be very large. Many people even indicate Nepal’s fate as that of Afghanistan and Iraq. But not Iraq or Afghanistan, Nepal could turn into a Vietnam of the 21st century. This means, there is a possibility that the Nepali people will once again have to revolt against international intervention. What I believe is, if the peace process does not move forward in a proper manner, yet another people’s revolt is a must.

Q. Are you in a position to organize that sort of people’s revolt?

Prachanda : The people of Nepal have to do that. We, on our part, could of course try to lead the revolt.

Q. But, how much possibility is there of deferring the polls to Baisakh (mid-April to mid-May) through an agreement by amending the constitution?

Prachanda : I don’t think so. It does not happen every time. There won’t be any situation where the Nepali people will tolerate the postponement of polls time and again.

Q. That means, if polls don’t happen in November, there is no possibility of polls at all in the near future?

Prachanda: I think it won’t be wrong to draw such a conclusion.

Q. For what the people’s revolt you are talking about?

Prachanda : Firstly, it is for holding of the polls. If that could not happen, it is for transferring all the power to the people.

Q. Power in the people’s hands means power in your hands?

Prachanda : Power in our hands means power in the hands of those who represent the people

Q. When are you launching your people’s revolt?

Prachanda : The process has already begun. Our comrades who are ministers have outlined certain points and given an ultimatum to quit the government if those points are not met. This itself is the beginning of the revolt.

Q. What will be the eight-party equation if the elections do not take place?

Prachanda : I doubt that the coalition will remain intact if the elections do not take place. Either the eight parties will again launch a fresh movement or some of the parties will join hands with the reactionary forces and some will reach out to the people.

Q. What will be the role of the PLA in the revolt?

Prachanda : The PLA cannot be used in course of the people’s movement. But, anything can happen if a situation arises wherein the country heads towards the people’s revolt. The PLA may not remain inside the ‘cantonments’. It will come out.

Q. What will happen to the UN monitoring/ supervision process if the election does not take place on the scheduled date?

Prachanda : The agreement was for nearly one year. If the election does not take place within that period then the UN’s role would come to an end. There will be no need of the UN to stay here.

Q. Let’s change the context. You claim that there is a conspiracy against you in the Terai. Where was that conspiracy hatched?

Prachanda : The problem in Terai is of a serious nature. It is not true that the Hindu extremists alone are behind it as we had been mentioning sometimes. When we sealed an agreement for the Constituent Assembly elections, representatives of the United States went to Madhes to instigate (the people) against us. America has tried to marginalise the Maoists in Madhes. Secondly, the expansionist faction of the Indian ruling class is also conducting planned activities. Thirdly, the feudal-landlord class, which was earlier displaced from Terai, is also involved for revenge. Fourthly, influence of the parliamentary parties was almost non-existent in Terai. They are also taking it as a chance to reduce the Maoist influence there. All these groups have united against the Maoists. And, the dacoits, murderers and criminals, who were chased away by our activists, have also organized themselves. Therefore, the Madhes problem is multidimensional.

Q. Haven’t you talked to the Indian side about the Madhes affairs?

Prachanda : We have been holding discussions. I have been raising the issue with the Indian ambassador—i.e. with the officials working in Delhi. If India had wanted then this kind of mayhem could have been definitely averted. Now they say that such activities are taking place due to the open border. But, there is no ground to easily accept that. It seems to be part of a strategy to sabotage Nepal’s revolutionary movement. Secondly, the general public in Nepal knows that a big ‘design’ of the Indian ruling class to expand its influence in Nepal– particularly in Madhes– has been in play. We have been countering this.

Q. What is your India policy now?

Prachanda : We had raised nationalism as the main agenda when we launched the people’s war. In the latter phase, when our responsible friends were getting arrested in India, and the Indian interventions increased, we started our preparations to fight against India. We discussed about a tunnel war with India. I had prepared a document after studying the tunnel warfare of the Vietnam War.

It is an open secret that we wanted to hold talks with the royalists before ‘February 1’. Our policy on nationalism and threats from India remains the same if the issues of the tunnel warfare and the talks with Gyanendra are viewed together. However, the February 1 incident badly turned the situation towards an autocracy. It was a newer development than our expectation and analysis. After the advent of the autocracy, we had to go against it. We had to forge a working alliance with the parliamentary parties for that. On top of that, we had to opt for an alliance with the Nepali Congress. And for that, we had to seek Delhi’s support.

Q. Why? What is the relationship between Delhi and the Nepali Congress?

Prachanda : There is a very deep-rooted relationship between Delhi and the Nepali Congress. Is that a secret? Observing the developments since this party was born shows a special relation. For instance, we wanted to strike the 12-point agreement in Rolpa. But, we went to Delhi after Girijababu said he won’t come to Rolpa, and would rather meet us in Delhi. We had a tough time hoodwinking (the Indian authorities) to bring Girijababu to our place. But no matter how much we tried to trick the Indian government, we don’t feel that it was unaware of our meetings. Girijababu had stayed as a guest of the Indian government. That (12-point understanding) took place with the Indian government’s consent. In this way, India did have a role in the signing of the 12-point understanding. In other words, it won’t be otherwise to say that we, too, had some kind of relationship with India through the Nepali Congress.

Q. Now, what does India want from you and what do you want from India?

Prachanda : A relationship of equality. We want the past agreements and treaties (with India) be reviewed appropriately. Also, we want India to help us positively in this transitional period as a neighbour. On the part of India, may be it now wants us to work as per its interest and wish? However, we didn’t work in that way after joining the government. What we feel is India did play a role to marginalize our party’s influence in Terai; it wasn’t good.

Q. What do you feel about Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee’s recent remarks about the CA elections?

Prachanda: The kind of language he used was very objectionable. That is against the Nepali people and the independence of the Nepali state. It gives a clear hint that India wants to dictate things (in Nepal). It smacks of the tone and language of former US ambassador Moriarty.

Q. Are Nepal’s nationality and sovereignty under threat due to foreigners?

Prachanda : Earlier, when I said the country is heading towards a catastrophe, I also meant to hint at the danger looming on Nepal’s national integrity. The way foreign meddling has been on the rise, if viewed in all contexts, it may pose a danger to Nepal’s independence if all nationalist forces do not stand united. However, I don’t think that danger has already come. The national feeling of the Nepali people is very strong. The Nepali people are always ready to make any kind of sacrifice for the country’s independence. Nevertheless, there are indications that do hint at huge conspiracies being hatched against Nepal’s national integrity and national independence.

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